Experiences on acid

I did acid once a week for ten months; a summary is here

I am writing from my experience on acid. I have met many people who say their experience is very different. Although I use language like ‘we feel like’ or ‘one experiences,’ please know I don’t think my analysis is universal.

Memory

On acid, thoughts work like a stitch in cloth.

If you look at a stitch from the top down, it looks like a straight, mostly unbroken lineacidthought1

The thread itself isn’t actually going in a straight line, but the visible portion looks even, organized, functional.

If you look at the thread itself, it might look like something closer to this:

stitchacid

On acid, thoughts stop feeling like a top-down view of the stitch and start to feel like the entire goddamn thread. You start out with one thought (the first segment), and then find you’ve forgotten what you were thinking about – you are now headed in a different direction (the loop underneath), and attempts to force yourself back in line is useless. And so you go, helplessly, through a thousand ideas related and unrelated to the first segment of thought, before you find yourself back in the top stitch again. By that point you’ve forgotten what you were thinking about, so the return to the “normal” thought line is a bit of a pleasant surprise. And so you go on to move through the thought – but then the forgetting happens again.

In this way, normal thought streams can occur, but interspersed between many other thought streams. I tripped a few months ago and needed to go to the bathroom. The thought I wanted to think was “I need to ask someone for help to go to the bathroom.” This thought took me (probably) twenty minutes to fully process and actually come out of my mouth. Those twenty minutes weren’t useless, though; when we relate the idea of ‘trouble asking for help’ to our daily life, we usually think of things like being very drunk, or being very sick, and the entirety of our attention is taken up in completing the task. This is not the case on acid – the entire set of the thought “I need to ask someone for help to go to the bathroom” took the same amount of attention it would normally, only it was cut up into fragments and thrown across twenty minutes.

On acid, trying to remember what you were thinking about ranges from difficult to impossible. You cannot fight the course of the thread. Eventually you learn to give up and allow your mind to take you where it wants, because it will come back round eventually. This teaches you that the sensation of “trying to remember” is useless, and you learn to stop pursuing it.

This is my rationalization for why my memory is bad after taking so much acid. I tripped for so much so long that the muscle of memory atrophied. I feel like everything I need to know is still within me, but the command to access it is severely delayed.

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Tripsitting 1

I tripsat a man alone in my apartment on what turned out to be much stronger acid than we thought. He was twice my size, heavily muscled, and, as we found out, had a rather delusional reaction to acid. He hallucinated, had poor spacial awareness, and ran around, screaming and flailing his arms, breaking my furniture, and alerting my neighbors. I spent his peaking eight hours (the acid lasted way longer than normal) trying to sit on him, calm him, and being thrown like a ragdoll whenever he got excited. At one point he took my head between his hands, stared into my eyes, and said “I could snap your neck right now.” I wish I could say I was scared, but by that point I was so exhausted I kind of wanted to die anyway.

He didn’t remember any of it afterwards but felt quite regretful.

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Wordlessness

Usually we process concepts with a near direct one-to-one correspondence to words. There is a concept, and there is a word that maps onto the concept. Normally the mapping is so tight that we sometimes end up feeling like the words are the concepts themselves. This is why rhetoric is so powerful, why words so important, and why a skilled wordsmith can spin us around and confuse ourselves as to what we really believe – they are manipulating words that are strongly bound to ideas, and thus they manipulate ideas. It’s why we care about things like gendered language, or slurs, or insults.

On acid, this correspondence is reduced. Concepts occur wordlessly; they are experienced, like a tactile sensation in the brain. This is why thoughts on acid are so difficult to communicate – no matter how clear they are to ourselves, we lack the structure to communicate them, and the structure to recall them later. The the words for the concepts are reduced to just symbols, and seem petty, or arbitrary, or artistic representations of the real, truer thing beneath. This makes communication feel much more like a game, or a dance – that you are toying with verbal sounds that aren’t bound to any one thing anymore – you can tie them to anything, and they become much more flexible.

When we normally imagine ‘inability to communicate,’ we imagine that we can speak the thoughts in our heads in some fashion, but that others don’t understand because of language barriers, or they have different contexts for our words, or they haven’t heard the long thought train that led up to it. Normally inability to communicate is something rooted in the poor understanding of the other person – but this is not the case on acid. On acid, the inability to root things in language occurs in your own mind, to yourself. This is an alien feeling to someone who is used to orderly and practical thought.

I feel like the processing I do now is much more similar to words-as-symbols rather than words-as-direct-mapping. This has its drawbacks: I believe it ties into my difficulty remembering things, as words are fucking great for memory. It damages my ability to communicate with other people and I have trouble having an active handle on my train of thought – I get distracted more often, and I can’t hold as many multiple concrete details in my head at the same time.

On the positive side, I feel like my thinking is immensely more clear. Where I would be influenced by seemingly persuasive arguments before, now it seems like they’re waging a war with weapons that don’t work on me. My sense of concept is like gears working underground, disconnected from any handles above the surface. All the ways in which those handles were pressed in order to lead my concepts astray now have severely reduced effects. My thinking has grown significantly more independent (crazy?)

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Acid Testing

I was tripping on about 400ug. My friend asked me to do some math, gradually increasing in difficulty. I could do any math that relied on one unit of memory – for example, 3×3 = 9. I didn’t manually calculate 3×3=9, it was already memorized.

I had difficulty doing math that relied on two units of memory – for example, 54+92. I knew 5+9, and I knew 4+2, but by the time I remembered one of them, I forgot the other.

I was incapable of doing any math that required three units of memory. 13×14 was impossible. I knew how I was supposed to do it, but the thought-loops prevented me from creating a singular, unbroken line of thought. By the time I’d looped all the way back to my original train of thought, I’d forgotten the concrete detail I needed to remember.

Then my friend asked me to imagine a diamond, equal in length on all sides. He said – the top corner is blue, the left is green, the bottom is yellow, the right is purple. If you rotate the diamond one quarter counterclockwise, what color is on the top?

I figured out the answer almost instantly, even before any of the sober people listening. My visual imagination was so strong that a description of an image was almost as good as me looking at the image.

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Tripsitting 2

I’ve tripsat around 50ish people, and have noticed a trend where some men, generally quite polite, unassuming, and gentle while sober, will make uncharacteristic sexual advances to me while tripping – mostly while in a sort of distant, dazed state. The advances mostly come in the form of silently caressing, holding, or groping me – pretty casually, as though we’re already sexually intimate. This puts me in an awkward position, because as their tripsitter, I feel responsible for facilitating a good experience, and rejecting someone on acid can start a bad trip. I usually respond by pretending I have something to do somewhere else, or gently pulling away, if I can.

(I know there’s a strong cultural taboo against unwanted sexual contact, but in this context I want to emphasize that I feel no judgement and I don’t mind. The contact wasn’t aggressive and I felt in control and free to leave. Plus they were on drugs.)

It’s rather amusing to me that this is a trend. I haven’t asked any of them about it yet. I don’t know what it’s all about. If any of you have experienced this I would like to know more.

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Belief

I generally don’t experience construction of belief during a trip. Tripping is almost entirely deconstructive for me; it’s a continual process of locating ideas I have about the way things work and then losing belief in them.

Some other people have this same experience, but most don’t. Experiencing constructive belief “that cat can hear my thoughts” or “I am communicating with an omnipotent being” is fairly common. I don’t understand how this happens, but it’s really hard for people who experience it to explain it. If anybody has an enlightening perspective on this phenomenon then I’d like to know about it.

Anyway – normally when we ‘believe’ things, we have some sort of sensation that the thing we believe matches up pretty accurately with some sort of external reality. This is what we feel when we say things are ‘true,’ when we talk about ‘facts,’ or ‘insanity’ This sensation can permeate so strongly and universally that we stop really registering that we feel it, sort of like a fish that doesn’t know what water is. This is why it can be so difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced anything else.

While tripping, this sensation is reduced or lost. Beliefs are still experienced, but without the feeling of matching up with ‘external reality.’ Once unbound by concerns about ‘truth’, beliefs start to feel like stories, and it becomes much easier for the mind to view beliefs purely for the benefits or comfort the stories provide. This can really highlight ways in which we lie to ourselves, because we lose the escape of ‘but it’s true’ to justify our self-deception. All we have left is “what are my incentives for believing this,” and the answers can be very brutal. “You really believe this because you are desperate for love” or “because you like feeling superior” or “because you are afraid of being alone.”

All that’s left is “this is the way I have made it.”

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An okcupid date

I don’t remember who proposed it, but I met him for the first time at my doorstep. Within ten minutes we both dropped acid and went to church. I sang all the songs joyfully, and at the post-sermon meet-and-greet I told everyone that I was god.

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600ug

That was the reported dose, but in hindsight I think the tabs were stronger.

I spread out towels on my bed out of fear I might pee myself. I closed the door, turned off the music, ate the tabs, and laid down, alone and in silence.

The comeup came hard 20 minutes in. By 90 minutes time slowed so much that I could hear each individual rotation of the blades from the fan in the corner. I was writhing with overwhelming ecstasy, in my body and my mind. I became aware that my genitals were contracting, that I was having an orgasm. It didn’t stop for several minutes.

By 120 minutes I could no longer see the room in front of me when I opened my eyes. I was no longer Aella; I had no experience of my identity, my beliefs, my expectations – I was an infinite series of conscious experiences, cruel and kind, suffering and prosperous. I was dreaming with my eyes open wide, with the knowledge that these weren’t new dreams, they were old ones, ones I’d had a thousand times before, and my presence here was a remembering, and in remembering was what existence was.

After a few hours I regained function enough to manage to hit play on a laptop I’d set up next to me. Time was so distorted that, while I recognized the music, I felt nothing from it; by the time one note had played, I’d forgotten the last one. It no longer functioned like music to me. This frightened me; I thought maybe I’d lost the ability to enjoy music, and the concern was enough to prompt me to skype call a friend and blabber nonsense to him until I finally regained my sense of self.

Fortunately I managed to get through the whole experience without peeing myself even once.

Facts vs. Truth

Years ago, a very liberal media source interviewed my very fundamentalist Christian father about his very fundamentalist Christian views on homosexuality. The outcome was a well-edited mash of audio-visual tricks that made my father look like a buffoon, saying and responding in uncharacteristic ways that highlighted the stupidity of what he was saying.

I did not feel sympathy. Even if the interviewers were not directly and literally honest, they communicated the “truth” behind his words – that of judgement, of intolerance, of irrationality – which I knew, from living with him, that he actually did feel – calling gay people ‘fags’ and ranting about the ‘gay agenda’ in private. In a way, I thought the interviewers sacrificed literal facts in order to reveal a greater truth. After all – my dad presented ‘literally’ would have showed him selecting his words carefully, making use of persuasive rhetoric, making his position look reasonable – and I believed that his position was obviously not reasonable. So really the interviewers, through their artistic use of interpretation, were actually doing good work with their alternative use of facts.

Several months ago I was stalked and chased down some deserted alleys in Istanbul. When the man charged at me, I screamed, and he stopped and fled, without touching me. When I told the story to my neighbors (who were going to help me translate to the authorities) they insisted that I lie and say the man had grabbed me – because if he hadn’t touched me, no crime had been committed and he couldn’t be prosecuted. And since we knew he was bad, and that he should be prosecuted, we should be dishonest about the literal facts in order to truthfully illuminate his badness.

My point is that we have an idea that sometimes facts aren’t the same as truth. That even if you say things correctly, you might give a false idea, and that sometimes saying things incorrectly is necessary in order to creatively reveal the true nature of reality. We sometimes forgive dishonest portrayals as necessary, particularly if we feel strongly or morally about the outcome.

It’s why we tolerate/love mockery and satire, or impassioned and exaggerated speech. It’s why we’re okay setting aside the ‘rational fact checking’ parts of our brain when ‘badness’ is happening – because deep down, we feel the facts no longer matter. Facts, even if true, can be misleading, can slow us down, can catch us in petty arguments over statistics or history, can distract us from things like protecting gay people or prosecuting would-be rapists. They can be used as weapons against us – if you’ve ever had a debate with an obviously-wrong person who is more technically informed than you, you know this frustration. Facts do not equal truth, at least not deep down in our gut.

And I don’t mean to say that this is bad or good. Was it a bad or good thing that I agreed to lie to the police about my stalker in Istanbul? I don’t care about whether or not this was moral – this is not the question I am trying to answer. Shutting down “caring about facts” has its benefits and drawbacks. All I am trying to say is that we do this. All the time. And to pretend that facts are facts are facts and that we only care about facts is an outright lie. Facts are useful when we can wield them for good, and misleading or distracting when others wield them for bad. We frequently care more about the feeling of truthiness, not the feeling of factuality, because truthiness always feels morally right, and sometimes facts feel morally wrong.

And so when I see outrage and disbelief about how people can support Trump after he repeatedly lies, contradicts himself, or displays a general disinterest in factuality, I feel like those outraged fail to understand this key concept. People supporting Trump are sacrificing facts in order to illuminate their ‘deeper truth’ in the same way I was sacrificing facts when I supported the pro-gay interviewers, when I lied that my stalker had touched me. They genuinely feel that the liberal agenda is ruining the country, and that sacrificing literal accuracy is a minor detour on the path to saving themselves and America. They are doing exactly the same thing that we do, except against us.

It is not a war of fact against fact, but rather truthiness against truthiness, with facts being used as weapons against each side.

If we want to step away from this, we have to be consistent. If I want to condemn Trump supporters for being tolerant of his lies, then I have to stop sympathizing with the pro-gay interviewers and I have to defend my father’s presentation of his views as he gave them. I have to tell the police the truth, even if it means a would-be rapist goes free. If Trump supporters do not get to pick and choose their own truth, then I don’t get to pick mine either.

10 Months of Acid

disclaimer: this is not typical acid use. There are many concretely ‘beneficial’ effects from lower, more infrequent doses

In 2014, I did on average 250ug of acid once a week for ten months, from January to October, or approximately 40 times. Doses typically ranged from 150ug-600ug (I assume; I never knew for sure how much I actually took). Subjective experiences ranged from slightly glowing colors to complete loss of any sense contact with the physical world around me (and a 10 minute orgasm at one point).

I had the ability to. I had savings. I lived in a house of accepting camgirls. Real life wasn’t getting in the way.

The first thing people usually want to know is why? Nobody gets addicted to acid. It’s unheard of. When people trip, they stay generally keep the fuck away from it for several months. It can be a very overwhelming experience, noncommunicable, and utterly alien.

I did it because I felt like I was learning. Every time I tripped I had the overwhelming sensation that the doors had opened and I was mainlining information from a direct source of truth. Every time I stopped tripping, it felt like those doors closed, and I forgot most of what I’d learned. But I wanted to remember.

So I kept doing it. Again and again, higher and higher doses. I needed to know. I produced art. I played music.

When we imagine frequent drug use, we imagine it as a form of escapism – that real life is too difficult, that we want to shut down for a time.

Acid was exactly the opposite. It heightened senses, heightened what I was aware of in my own mind, let me explore the way my own thoughts formed. It took what I was and shoved my own face in it. I couldn’t look away. There were times of deliberately induced and absolutely excruciating emotional pain, to which nothing in my regular life has ever come close. I did it on purpose. I needed to know.

It is very difficult to talk about the “things you learn” while tripping, because it occurs while in such a deeply altered state that language ceases to apply. It really is more about a way of looking – a very specific type of engaging in experience. “Thinking about the experience” defeats the point, because thinking about it is not the same thing as “having it”. Applying words to the experience is misleading by nature. It is the concept in math where defining a thing gives it an outside and an inside, and thus you can never define the thing that is “always outside” – in giving it a term, in identifying it with boundaries, it is no longer what you are trying to say. The Tao that can be named is not the Tao. It is the unspoken, the Mu.

As time went on, I stopped viewing myself as a being separate from the universe. Sensations became interesting to watch, not motivating. I entered such a permanent state of utter peace and contentment that I stopped wanting anything at all. And by the end of it, I barely got out of bed, barely ate. I had stopped working almost entirely and was living off slowly depleting savings. Why would I work? Why would I do anything? I was…. not happy, not sad, I simply was. I was free of desire. I did not fear death.

And, ten months in, I realized that’s what I was looking at – death. I would compulsively whisper “I am dead” under my breath throughout the day. I was an empty vessel. And I realized, that if I kept doing acid, I probably would die, out of sheer apathy.

I wasn’t terribly worried – but I had to make a decision. Did I want to continue down this path, knowing the end was oblivion? Or did I want to close the doors and return to the world of the living?

I chose the latter – not due to any compulsion or survival instinct (at least not subjectively) – but because I casually figured living would be more interesting.

The journey back was almost as strange and beautiful as the journey in. As my motivations slowly began returning, I found all I wanted was to forget. Whereas before I was trying to immerse myself in the knowing, now I was constantly attempting to shut eyes that were permanently pried open. No matter where I turned, the knowledge had been seared into my brain. It was like that feeling you get when you watch a movie and are suddenly aware that, just out of the frame, there are camera crews standing around the actors, and you stop buying into the story because all you see is the movie set.

I just wanted to pretend this was all real. I wanted to feel invested in myself. I wanted to feel upset, insecure, proud, happy, anxiety, anything. I wanted to stop knowing.

Before I chose life, I didn’t mind the deep nothingness I had sunk into – but after the choice was made, it became… not uncomfortable, but strange. I felt like I had abandoned an old lover, like this constant twinge of pain, like a splinter in my throat I couldn’t dislodge. I thought constantly about tripping again and being reunited. I did acid in my dreams.

Over time, almost without me realizing it, the eye slowly eased shut, like going to sleep. I started to find myself caught up in moments of investment. I started to feel insecure again, annoyed. And it was shitty and amazing.

It took about another ten months for me to return to roughly where I’d been when I started.

I’m mostly normal now, with only a few remnants. Sometimes certain types of conversations will trigger it, where I’m sitting there and suddenly the eye of the universe has turned on me and I am melting away. It is very intense. I don’t mind, though. That’s a fundamental part of the feeling, really – that I don’t mind when it’s happening.

I feel like I’ve pulled the wool over my own eyes. I’ve bought into this world. It is profoundly comforting in a way so subconscious it’s difficult to identify. It’s as though at all times, behind my ears, there is a powerful belief whisperingit’s okay. When I get locked out of my apartment, when debt collectors call, when my mom tells me she found a lump in her breast – it’s okay. I chose this. I am full, I am held. I am not afraid anymore, and when I am, it’s because fear is interesting, because I have the privilege of feeling it.

My underlying motivation now is to convey this awareness to others (or feel as though I have). It seems like the most important thing, the only important thing. And so here I am.


An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path. He wasn’t sure of which direction to go, and he’d forgotten both where he was traveling to…and who he was. He remembered absolutely nothing. He suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him. She grinned toothlessly and with a cackle, spoke: “Now your third wish. What will it be?”

“Third wish?” The man was baffled. “How can it be a third wish if I haven’t had a first and second wish?”

“You’ve had two wishes already,” the hag said, “but your second wish was for you to forget everything you know.” She cackled at the poor man. “So it is that you have one wish left.”

“All right,” he said hesitantly, “I don’t believe this, but there’s no harm in trying. I wish to know who I truly am.”

“Funny,” said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. “That was your first wish…”

unknown author; if you know who, let me know so I can give credit